Friday, 25 July 2008

The Very Real Terrorism of Enblocs

We've always heard of the thuggish gang mentality that can emerge from estates undergoing enbloc. The very real presence of bullying, of threats written or verbal, of people telling others to shut up during meetings (blogged about previously, here).

And now this:
(Photo courtesy of the Straits Times)

Residents of the Laguna Park condo on East side Singapore are facing urban terrorism in the form of vandalism. According to the Straits Times report, the vandalism on owners' cars "were 'inside jobs' committed by people who support the en-bloc deal". You can read about it here or here.

I have mentioned in the past that the enbloc process is flawed and unfair, because it shifts too much power to a group of owners - the prosalers. After all, the signing of the CSA is not done independently by an auditor and anonymously at an appointed time, like elections. Rather, the sales committee (and anyone it chooses to inform) knows exactly who is not keen to sell. Can you imagine if in a real life political election, the dominant party (the one who holds power) has access to such knowledge - of who is not keen to vote for them? Imagine the consequences for that. That's why in elections, it is crucial to protect the citizenry by ensuring anonymity in the voting process.

No such thing in enbloc sales. The SC knows who is signing and who doesn't want to, via the lawyer. They are not bound by any confidentiality clause so they can reveal such information to other owners, who may be more aggressive in forcing people to sign the CSA. Other estates have stayers who received hate mails, signs put up on their doors, vandalism etc.

What can be done? Surely if owners are coerced into signing the CSA, it's a sign of bad faith?

Not under the law because (1) the law allows you a cooling period to pull out your signature, regardless of the fact that you were forcibly coerced (2) bad faith does not consider threats to your personal being or property.

So what can you do?

  1. The most important thing is to form a stayers group. There is strength in numbers. Some of the bullies in the estate depends heavily on the fact that stayers are likely to be cowering in fear of their property and lives, and so can get their way by threatening with impunity. A stayers group can act not only as a support group, but as a neighbourhood watch group, to help each other keep an eye out on suspicious activities. Get the help of the Hope4stayers group (here).
  2. Report to the police, and document everything in the enbloc process. Even if it can't be brought up at STB, you can investigate the possibility of a lawsuit. I've been told that some police have classified such enbloc-instigated vandalism as 'mischief'. That is totally incorrect (according to my reading of the Penal Code). Compare 'mischief' and 'criminal intimidation' below. It is clear that the vandal intended not just to damage your car, but to intimidate you into agreeing to the sale.
    • Mischief: (Para 425 of Penal Code). Whoever, with intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person, causes the destruction of any property, or any such change in any property, or in the situation thereof, as destroys or diminishes its value or utility, or affects it injuriously, commits “mischief”.
    • Criminal intimidation: (Para 503 of Penal Code). Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.
  3. Use car security cameras to protect yourselves. There are now gadgets that can be installed in cars that will take video recordings or photographs of suspicious people who come near your car. They are typically small, easily hidden, and the vandals won't know what happens until the police comes knocking on their doors. You can find such products locally here and here (I googled around!) or in some shops in Sim Lim Square. You can read the AsiaOne Motoring advice on "To catch a car thief" which includes information about these small cameras that can be installed to catch vandals (article here). I understand most of these devices are inexpensive. Some of these devices can be installed on your unit entrance as well.
  4. Other measures include getting security cameras installed in your car parks, or do like what my SC chairman used to do - park in front of the existing security cameras. Always :)
An interesting finding in the Penal Code: Para 267C states that whoever makes, prints or distributes under his control any document that is "likely to lead to any breach of the peace shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 5 years, or with fine, or with both". I wonder if the CSA counts as a document that causes a "breach of the peace", which in most estates, it does.

My final comment is that in this highly inflammatory environment that is created in enbloc estates, it is imperative that you do not stoop down to threats and vandalism. This applies to BOTH prosalers AND stayers.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Though I am a suppoter of enbloc.. I find such actions thoroughly disgraceful, disgusting and over the board ! Where is safe anymore??

kelly said...

"It is imperative that you do not stoop down to threats and vandalism." I can't agree more!

Anonymous said...

Enbloc is after all,a momentary affair, why allow it to consume your lives? Honed some survival skills on how yo take control of your own lives.

*Live normal.
*Strengthen core muscles by exercising and taking brisk walks.(buy good quality walking shoes)
*Turn up the volume of your favourite music.(how many of us really have time for it?)
*Happy hormones rise when we anticipate something fun. (avoid events or people who will remind or make you feel down.)
*Keep yourself usefully occupied with pastimes you enjoy.(movies, short gateaways, reading a good book.....?)


Its amazing how some of these ways detox enbloc toxins, dust and dirt from our body

Anonymous said...

There are both pros and against. The car that was vandalised I believe belongs to the owner who not only is against enbloc but is trying to sabotage the process by saying that the already high reserve price is not high enough. So while I condemn the thuggish behaviour, those who are anti-enbloc should be more civil and not engaged in spreading falsehood. At the end of the day, we must respect the demorcratic process.